Some four years after the demise of the Nice, bassist/vocalist Lee Jackson and drummer Brian Davison finally found a way of profiting from the prog rock gravy train they'd helped set in motion. With Patrick Moraz filling Keith Emerson's capacious boots, they recorded an album that in many ways surpasses anything the Nice ever recorded, and one whose ambition more than matched Emerson's new outfit, ELP. It helped that along with the standard panoply of prog keyboards -- organ, piano, clavinet, Mellotron, and Moog -- Moraz brought with him a jazz feel that clearly energized the rhythm section. Though there's no shortage of de rigueur complex time signatures here, this is also a band with fire in its belly, nowhere more so than in the last five minutes of the extended "Credo," where Jackson's bass runs and Davison's drumming combine to truly thrilling effect. Jackson's voice has always divided fans between those who find it an appalling croak, and those who relished its wry phrasing, but it has never sounded more impassioned than it does here. Perhaps the instrumentals "Papillon" and "Ritt Mickley" are a little too pleased with themselves to strike an emotional response. Yet elsewhere, despite the fearsome complexity of Moraz's arrangements and the odd lapse into portentousness, there is usually a soaring melody line to quell any doubts. All told Refugee's only album delivered enough to suggest that they could have delivered at least another two killer blows before punk finished them off. In the event, it functioned purely as a convenient shop window for Yes, who were in the market for a new keyboard player after Rick Wakeman's departure.
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AllMusic Review by Christopher Evans
feat: Patrick Moraz
feat: Lee Jackson